FROM GARAGE, POP’S PLANS TO HIT THE ROAD

pops-extProduce from the vegetable garden outside Pop’s Garage in the Grove West will be used in dishes. (Click to enlarge)

food

Pop’s Garage, a popular Mexican restaurant on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, opens its third outlet today in the Grove West shopping center in Shrewsbury.

The taqueria is the seventh in a cluster of varied restaurants owned and run by Marilyn Schlossbach, the brains behind Langosta Lounge, another Mexican place on the boardwalk; Trinity and the Pope, offering Cajun dishes in downtown Asbury; the Dauphin Grille, a seafood spot in that city’s Berkeley hotel, and the casual-themer Labrador Lounge, in Normandy Beach, where the third Pop’s Garage is also located.

But this one represents a breakout for Schlossbach, and not solely because it’s located in a highway shopping center. Along with her partner-brother Rich and husband Scott, Schlossbach created the Shrewsbury Pop’s as a prototype for what they hope will grow to into a national franchise.

redbankgreen caught up with 46-year-old Schlossbach – who is also running for state Assembly as a Democrat in the new 11th District – at a pre-opening party in Shrewsbury last Friday for the scoop on her empire-building plan.

schlossbach-2Marilyn Schlossbach at a pre-opening party for Pop’s Garage last Friday. (Click to enlarge)

rbg: So, why Shrewsbury?

MS: Well, Chris Cole [of Metrovation, owner of the Grove and the Grove West] came after us, and I really like him. He’s got a very good vision, not only for retail, but for the world. He’s very environmentally conscious, esthetically conscious. So we kind of did a little partnership. He did all of the green fit-out here. These are solar lights above you, all green equipment, energy-efficient equipment.

rbg: Is there solar power to the whole building, or just for you?

MS: As soon as the town approves it, we’re going to put it up on the roof [for the strip, which also includes women's clothing retailer Tula and surf shop Billabong].

rbg: Was there a desire to be near Red Bank?

MS: No, we don’t really choose the location so much as we choose the situation. I really like what he’s created here, with the edible garden out front, Billabong. We’re looking forward to getting more involved in the community here, which we do down south, and to doing more gardening. There’s more land in the back that we’ve been offered to do some gardening down the road. So it just seemed like a nice fit.

rbg: Still, it’s a shopping center environment, and that’s unusual for you.

MS: Yes, but we want to eventually take Pop’s national. So this is our first test of trying to do a LEED-certified, sustainable Mexican restaurant.

rbg: Why Pop’s, as opposed to others under your umbrella?

MS: Well, number one, this is the third one –  we haven’t had two of anything [else] yet. This is more conceptual, something we can control. The other ones to me are more one-offs.

We travel a lot – we surf a lot in Mexico – and I’ve not seen much of the more creative atmosphere and real Mexican cuisine done together, unless you go to New York and a very expensive restaurant. Down here, it’s usually the surf concept. That’s not what we’re trying to create. I think this is unique. Even though there’s a lot of Mexican out there, there’s not a lot of what we’re doing.

rbg: As you know, we just got Surf Taco here in Red Bank.

MS: You know, what Surf Taco does is great. I know those guys, they’re customers, I eat in their restaurants. It’s very different from what we do, and I think there’s a lot of room for both.

rbg: How would you describe the difference?

MS: We’re a little more eclectic, more authentic. I mean, you could come in here with a bottle of wine, have dinner and feel relaxed. They’re more kid-friendly, more ‘surfy.’ Maybe we’ve retired from the young surf vibe and gone green.

rbg: So this is the launch pad for a national push?

MS: Yes. We’re tweaking out the menu. We don’t have a set menu, but we’re creating a menu, making sure it works financially, and for the customer, and then the fit-out comes with basically a vanilla box and then the look. It’s all recycled materials. This wood’s all from Jersey. The cans are from the nuts we use in the restaurant.

So we’re trying to let other people that would create a Pop’s go within a framework but keep it sustainable, green and as local as they possibly can, which is very different and very difficult to do when you’re doing a franchise-type concept. Getting the warmth. You want people to walk in an not feel like it’s a McDonald’s, that everything is the same.